By now, it's common knowledge that passwords are flawed. In April, the Heartbleed bug forced users to reset passwords across hundreds of thousands of websites. The celebrity photos stolen in September were, according to Apple, accessed through a "targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions." And just this week, a thread on Reddit revealed hundreds of passwords for Dropbox accounts had been compromised.
Some of these hacks were more consequential than others—Dropbox released a statement Tuesday saying most of the passwords posted were expired anyway—but if anything can benefit from this year's seemingly never-ending security breaches, it's the field of biometrics.
Digital biometrics—using people's fingerprints, voices, and faces to unlock devices instead of using memorized passcodes—aren't anything new. They've been around since the first iris recognition algorithm was patented in 1994, and they gained significant traction post 9/11. What is new is the timing: The rapid demise of the conventional password in this year alone means digital biometrics can be "cool" again.
After all, when the use of biometrics first became widespread, the field had "a faint whiff of the future about it," Tim De Chant wrote in a report for PBS last year. But instead, as devices entered smartphones and tablets and even immigration checkpoints, the technology grew "sufficiently advanced to be almost unremarkable."